Soft Tissue Injuries

Strains - a strain is a tear to the muscle fibres. When a muscle is subjected to more force than it can cope with it overstretches and the muscle fibres experience more force than they can cope with and tear. A grade one strain is minor, affecting less than 10% of the fibres, a grade two strain affects up to 50% of the fibres, and a grade three is rupture of the muscle.

Trigger Points - Trigger points are small hyper irritable points which form within a muscle. They are usually very tender, and cause pain when touch, but can also cause referred pain into other muscles. Poor circulation and toxin build up can cause trigger points to form, as can any activities which lead to the muscles either remaining in a state of contraction or contracting repeatedly. Trigger points can usually be released fairly quickly but if left untreated they can cause lasting changes to the structure of the muscle.

Myofascial Pain - Fascia is the network of connective tissue that binds every organ, bone and muscle together, as well as surrounding them separately and keeping everything in place. The fascia should help all the muscles smoothly glide against each other, however when it become dysfunctional it will become tightened to the skin, and results in everything 'sticking' and a reduction in the range of movement. The nerves and pain receptors running through the fascia are then irritated and become sensitive. Referred pain will occur in other muscle groups as well as the fascia links all the muscles. 

Protective Muscle Splinting - Where there is injury or inflammation to a joint, the muscles surrounding the joint attempt to take the strain away from the joint by remaining in a state of contraction. This however causes further problems, as the range of movement in the joint is restricted, and the muscle remaining in a state of contraction can lead to trigger points, myofascial pain or strains occurring.

Scar Tissue - When a soft tissue injury heals, fibrous scar tissue forms at the injury site. Scar tissue is more brittle and less flexible than healthy muscle fibres, often leading to reduced mobility and a higher risk of reinjury if the muscle is overstretched again. Massage can help to remodel and break it down, depending on how old it is, increasing range of movement as a result.

What causes muscular injury?

  • Sudden trauma e.g. collision with another dog
  • Over stretching of the muscle e.g. ball chasing, twisting when running
  • Repetitive movements
  • Wear and tear from Activities of Daily Living
  • Orthopaedic conditions
  • Age
  • Poor warm up or cool down
  • Lack of rest and recovery time after strenuous activities
  • Over training
  • Obesity
  • Spending too long with the muscles in a contracted position - crate rest
  • Post surgery
  • Anxiety 
Signs of muscular injury
  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • Twitchy skin
  • Tickly spots
  • Coat changes / flicks
  • Heat / inflammation in an area
  • Bruising / redness may be visible on some short coated dogs like greyhounds
  • Vocalisation
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Less social with dogs or people
  • Unwillingness to be petted or groomed
  • A change in their posture
  • A change in their gait
  • Seeming old before their time
  • A change in sporting performance
  • The condition improves with NSAID’s (such as metacam) but will reoccur as the muscle will enter the strain and restrain cycle
All of these symptoms may be very subtle as muscular injuries vary greatly in their severity and in the affect it has on our dogs. While all dogs have different tolerances to pain, if your dog has been noticeably showing these symptoms they may have had their injury for some time, they may have a moderate to severe condition or may have several areas of concern. My aim as a therapist is to treat muscular injuries before they become chronic and cause lasting changes to your dogs structure. 

How can massage help?

  • Remodels scar tissue
  • Improves circulation, delivering nutrients to the tissue
  • Improves mobility
  • Relieves patterns of overcompensation
  • Breaks down protective muscle splinting
  • Removes or at least reduces stiffness
  • Improves posture and gait
  • Helps with pain management
  • All of these can help your dog feel more comfortable and happy in their daily activities